Geneva resident Doug Milligan, a Jay County native, poses in a bridge at Swiss Heritage Village in Berne, where he is the executive director. It is his third job since retiring. (The Commercial Review/Sharon Hernandez)
Geneva resident Doug Milligan, a Jay County native, poses in a bridge at Swiss Heritage Village in Berne, where he is the executive director. It is his third job since retiring. (The Commercial Review/Sharon Hernandez)
Some people can say they have dedicated their lives to more beyond retirement, but few can say they’ve had at least three jobs and continue volunteering for the community since they retired.
Portland native Doug Milligan, at 73, lists a couple of the activities he’s involved in: Working for the Berne City Council, applying for grants for South Adams Trails, serving as executive director at Swiss Heritage Village and playing the trombone from time to time.
As he sits to talk about his career and community activities, Milligan, who lives near Geneva, pulls out a couple information sheets. One is a resume that lists every one of his past jobs, skills and contributions to the community. The other sheet has some information about his family and his life growing up in Portland. Needless to say, Milligan is an organized and practical man, which has led him to take on various positions in the community.
“I like working with people, the challenge of trying to be an effective role model and leader, facilitator and getting people to work together to accomplish the mission,” he said.
Another thing that keeps Milligan strong is his concern for the community.
Gary Habegger, from Habegger Furniture, Inc., said Milligan is the kind of person who is concerned with improving the community. Habegger met Milligan while working on a trails project that would link Geneva and Berne. As soon as he got to know him, Habegger thought Milligan was someone who felt the need to serve his town.
“I think it’s a great thing that he doesn’t back off, he just keeps going. When he has one project good and underway and feels like it is self-sustaining, he’s there digging up another project to make it work, he’s just energetic, and very valuable to whatever community he’s in.”
Born and raised in Portland, Milligan was always involved with more than one organization. He was a member of the Boy Scouts Troop 201; he played football in high school, becoming captain his senior year; and he started playing the trombone when he was in sixth grade.
He’s also been president of various community organizations — including Jay County Fair Association, the Jay County Patriot Band Boosters, Portland Chamber of Commerce, Portland Lions Club, and The Portland Foundation.
He’s helped found several other groups, including the John Jay Center for Learning, and he even helped start a band, The Starlighters Orchestra.
His longest job once he graduated from the International Business College in Fort Wayne was at the Jay Garment Company, in Portland, where clothes, especially denim, were made.
He said he remembers having to travel once a month to cities like New York and Los Angeles to talk with customers about their products, and sometimes he would use the opportunity to go to Madison Square Garden or Broadway. But living in a bigger city was never something he wanted for himself or his family.
“I always felt like when I got off the plane in Dayton after a week in New York that, ‘Gosh, I was home,’” he said. “I felt comfortable in the cities but I just didn’t feel like I could leave my home community.”
After leaving Jay Garment, Milligan was assistant director in charge of resource development at Jay-Randolph Developmental Services Inc., and he later served as clerk-treasurer and then town manager in Geneva.
Now, Milligan lives in a small house near Rainbow Lake with his wife, Judy. They have a son and a daughter, three grandsons, one granddaughter and two step-grandchildren.
Since his “retirement” he has taken up on issues that are of a concern to the community, which is why he’s a member of the Geneva council and at South Adams Trails.
His current position at Swiss Heritage Village was not planned.
Milligan said he and his wife would volunteer from time to time at the Berne historical site, but he never got too involved with the organization until he was asked for help in writing a job description for its next director.  
“I developed for them a job description, and then they came to me and asked ‘Hey could you come up with questions that the search committee could ask applicants?’ and based on my history of being involved in lots of stuff, I already had a list of questions and I modified them for their needs,” he said.
And when he gave them the questions and they looked through them, they simply asked him if he would apply for the job.
“I decided I would do it, but if I had known that when I was writing that job description I was going to do it, I’d make it a lot easier,” he said.
Rural Portland resident Wayne Bailey has been friends with Milligan for 11 years now, working on several activities together. When Milligan took a month off and traveled to Florida, earlier this year, Bailey and his friend wondered if Milligan had just stayed to help the community there as well.
“We all came to the conclusion that he was probably mayor at some city over at Florida,” Bailey, former Jay County Community Developer and currently an employee at Commonwealth Engineers, joked.
 As far as Milligan is concerned, giving his all to the community is one of his highest priorities.
“I’ve been called to be involved in things where I’d like to see the community improve,” he said. “That’s why we’re into trails, and that’s why we’re in the renovation of the bridge. It’s rewarding to know we can make some improvement so we can pass it along to the young guys.”
Wife Judy says that while sometimes it seems like her husband is doing too much, she is always next to him, giving him support.
“It’s kept us a lot younger, it’s kept us busy, involved in the community, I sometimes get a little uptight with it but not really, I’m really proud of him.”